We need Amir back because our selection committee couldn’t find a replacement bowler

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s team is being re-known for all the excitement it brings to the game of cricket. That comes from the fact that surprises are the forte of Pakistan cricket structure.

So much so, that we ended up giving a 40-year-old his debut match just two series before the World T20, and now we are on the verge of giving a chance to a player who just completed his five year ban amidst a spot fixing scandal.

We must give credit to the selection committee as Rafatullah Mohamed from Peshawar was included on the back-to-back impressive performances in the Domestic T20 tournament, and Muhammad Amir is being considered for the national team on the back of a really impressive return to competitive cricket.

For what we witnessed in the past, earning Pakistan’s cap has been too easy in recent times.

We used to hear that you have to score hundreds and thousands of first class runs and play more than just a couple of seasons to be selected for the national team, before becoming prominent in the eyes of the selectors, but this trend has changed with the arrival of T20. We once claimed that youngsters are not given enough chances, now it feels that the chances are rapidly distributed among players.

The likes of Awais Zia, Mukhtar Ahmed, Saad Nasim, Bilal Asif, Nauman Anwar, Rafatullah,Imran Khan Jr and Shakeel Ansar all fall under the category of players who wouldn’t have lasted 10 matches. It’s evident that most of these players may not be able to survive in the international arena with the kind of qualities they possess. But, ironically the selection committee lacked the eye of picking international players. They missed the fact that players such as Ahmed, Zia and Rafatullah wouldn’t easily adjust to the international arena as they weren’t included in the national team at the best time, for instance; it’s ‘too late’ in the case of Rafatullah.

Then there’s Imran Khan, he would find it hard to outfox the opposition, since he only bowls either a slow ball or a yorker length, and thus becomes extremely predictable.

On the other hand, there is hype surrounding the potential return of Amir to the national side, assuming that he would be great for the team.

Having said that, the Pakistan head coach once said that he would like to see Amir playing at least two seasons before being included in the team, and the selection committee said that he will have to prove himself before being considered again. But within a month’s time, after back-to-back good performances, everyone has now agreed on ‘principle’ that he should beincluded in the team in the near future, even though some players are likely to resist this move.

But amidst all this hype, excitement and controversy, there is a serious need of a reality check for the Pakistan cricket system. Yes, Amir was and still is, an exceptional talent, but here we are talking about how faulty the cricket system is in this country.

On the look of events, we are over the moon as we have quality bowlers back in the ranks, but on the other hand, it’s absolutely sad to see that the cricket system in this country could not find a replacement of a boy who hardly played for 14 months, and was only 18 when he was suspended.

There was a time when it was hard to select the best five bowlers for your team, as there were many options to choose from, but today it is completely the other way around.

If the past three years were not enough, where we literally had to pray that West Indiesdoesn’t play an ODI so we can qualify for the Champions Trophy in 2017, the episode of rushing Amir back in the mix of things should be alarming enough for all parties concerned, because obviously, in these past five years, we could not find a replacement bowler.

PREMIER LEAGUE 2015/15 PREVIEW: Chelsea

“Chelsea was outright winners last season, where the strength of their squad proved too hot to handle for the rest of the league. Their dominance was so outright that no team were able to beat them in any department.

This season, even though they still look overall favorite to defend their title, but their rivals have done some good business, and their glory to the title will be far tougher than last term around. “

Chelsea had a season to remember in every aspect last season. Their dominance was so outright that it almost looked a little too funny in the end, as their title surge never looked in doubt. The new comers in Costa, and Ferbegas looked completely at ease as they were featured in the Top goal scorers and Top assist provider for the blues in 14/15 campaign. Oscar, Hazard and Willian proved instrumental for the champions as they remained a team to beat in the last season. Matic remained the midfield giants for the Mourinho’s man, and Ivanovic, Terry and Courtous did great while defending.

However, this campaign should be more a test for the Mourinho’s men, as rival tried to strengthen their squad in the Transfer window. The likes of City, Manchester United and Liverpool spend heavily and they will look to push Chelsea all the way. This year, Mourinho will have to live without 2 club legends, with the like of Cech and Didier Drogba left the club. Jose signed Asmir Begovic from Stoke City as Cech replacement, whereas he finally able to grab his favorite Colombian Falcao on loan from As Monaco.

Chelsea should have enough quality to outdone their rivals once again in the title race, as they will face a far stiffer challenge this term than the last term around. The likes of Falcao will only going to strengthen blue’s attacking force, as last season they found wanting when Diego Costa had injury problems. That was one of the reasons as to why they scored 10 goals less than the 2nd place team (Manchester City) last season. Chelsea will also look to Kurt Zouma, as he did exceedingly well in the later part of the last season and look set to play more part in the coming season, which should help Chelsea throughout the campaign.

This year, Mourinho will have Costa, Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao as an attacking option, which should prove fruitful to them throughout the season. Their right wing remains a concern, as Cuadrado doesn’t seem to settle in that role as Mourinho hoped in January. Salah will also make a way out of the Stamford Bridge as his move to Roma on loan seems imminent, which means Willian will be the only option who can play on the right. All in all, Chelsea still looked strong enough to dig out results against their opponents, and seems to have a strong enough squad to defend their title this season as well.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Stoke’s new players and their possible impact

Stoke City had a relatively successful last season, and this time it was always about consolidating on what they have already built in the last few seasons.

Ever since Mark Hughes came into regime at the Britannia Stadium, the Potter’s philosophy started to change from a stubborn, more defensive and more physical at the time of Tony Pulis to more fluent, more direct and more attacking brand of football.

Begovic Joins Chelsea

Till now, Stoke have signed 7 players in the transfer window, while they had to let go 2 of their players. The most noticeable departure was of the Bosnian Goal Keeping ace Asmir Begovic, who joined Champions Chelsea as the replacement for departing Cech. His departure makes sense as young Jack Butland, who is being tipped as the next big thing is already in their ranks, and they also included young Dutch midfielder Marco van Ginkel in the deal, who arrived at the Britannia Stadium for a season long loan.

Stoke City's New Signing Joselu

One major signing for the Potter’s this time around is the purchase a 25 year old Spanish Striker Joselu from German club Hannover 96 for the fee of £5.9 Million. Joselu is an ex Real Madrid player who had a decent season with the German side, and seems like a backup replacement for Mame Biram Diouf, who had a more than a decent 1stseason at the Britannia Stadium and for ageing Crouch. Joselu is a 6ft 3in striker, who is great on the aerial balls and have good pace to stretch most defensive lines. He won 188 aerial duels last season for the German side, which was more than any player achieved in the Premier Leaguer Last season.

Shay Given Signed for Stoke from Aston Villa

Stoke signed 2 Goal Keepers, one experienced in Shay Given who signed from Aston Villa after a loan spell out at Middlesbrough last season and one in young Danish Haugard from FC Midtylland. Realistically, Shay Given is being signed to play as a 2ndchoice Goal Keeper, whereas Haugard is being signed as a long term project.

Potter's grab Jhonson on Free Transfer

In the defensive line, Stoke signed former Liverpool right back Glen Jhonson for free, which is a great bargain after his contract ran out of time with Anfield side. They also signed Philip Wollscheid from Bayer Leverkusen on 3 year deal after a successful loan spell with Potter’s in the 2nd half of the last season.

Stoke missed out on Shaqiri

The biggest disappointment for the Potter’s throughout the transfer window was the Shaqiri transfer saga, where Stoke nearly signed former Bayern and Swiss international Xerdan Shaqiri from Inter, but missed out on him after the club and the player could not reach the agreement. There were reports that Inter accepted a bid of £12 Million for the Swiss winger, but the player could not reach the agreement with the club after discussion with the manager Mark Hughes, who later said that “I went out and spoke to Shaqiri. We had a good chat. We needed to establish whether a deal could get done and we didn’t sense that.
“Maybe it is one that could be revisited, but I would say that it is probably not likely to happen. We have other targets now.”

Had that deal been agreed, Stoke would emerge as a real success story in this Transfer Window. However, Potter’s progress have been reasonably impressive, as the club and the manager tried to cover as many areas as possible. Mark Hughes signed a striker, who would provide a cover to Diouf and ageing Crouch, as well as found a right back who is in his early 30’s and can still offer a lot to a mid – table club. Hughes had also signed 2 centre backs to increase options as well as 2 Goal Keepers, who provide cover for Jack Butland in the short and long run. In Van Ginkel, Stoke has managed to grab one very promising young talent, and Hughes will hope to have an improved season this time around.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.